Knowing that many people will 'come home' to the parish during Advent and Christmas, collaboratives are working to make that welcome home a great one, at all levels ...
Parishioners in collaboratives are accustomed to waiting and preparing. Usually, collaboratives are announced in the fall, to be inaugurated the following June. Advent is also a time of waiting and preparing, but just four weeks, not months long, and collaboratives embrace it as another opportunity for evangelization.
Several years ago Peggy Barons, a parishioner in the Lexington Collaborative, bought a soft angel toy at a craft fair. The angel's presence was a topic of conversation and source of joy in her home and was the inspiration for her newly published children's book, "The Little Christmas Angel." If the "Elf on the Shelf" seems a bit scary, Ms. Barons offers an alternative. Like the elf, the angel surreptitiously moves from room to room, not checking for naughty or nice, but spreading joy and Christmas spirit wherever she goes. She remembers the experience with her own children, "Finding her in a new location every morning created excitement and joy during the days leading up to Christmas." Ms. Barons will use her book at children's Liturgy of the Word sessions at Sacred Heart and St. Brigid parishes, and at a special faith formation event at St. Catherine Parish, Westford. A goal in the St. Anne, Littleton-St. Catherine local pastoral plan calls the collaborative to, "help people of all ages develop a more personal relationship with Jesus." This goal has no age limits. At the pre-Christmas gathering in Westford, the little Christmas angel will help keep Jesus the center of attention -- the reason for the season. Other collaboratives are also offering alternatives to the hurried, harried, consumerism that is so prevalent in Advent.
Knowing that many people will "come home" to the parish during Advent and Christmas, collaboratives are working to make that welcome home a great one, at all levels, not just the important work done by greeters and ministers of hospitality, but by the contribution that liturgical ministers make to the celebration of reverent liturgies. Deacon Pat Guerrini in the Stoughton Catholic Collaborative offered workshops for lectors -- new and seasoned -- throughout November. The Word of God is not only heard, but proclaimed.
The Quincy Collaborative -- St. Mary, St. Ann, and Sacred Heart Parishes -- will continue beloved traditions and introduce some new things. The exterior of Sacred Heart and St. Ann Parishes is already decked out for Christmas because they are on the parade route for the annual Quincy Christmas parade this Sunday. Howard Lotis, collaborative director of Pastoral Ministries, reports, "The collaborative is offering a series on prayer on the Mondays of Advent. 'Enriching Your Prayer Life by Praying the Scriptures,' will reflect on relevant Advent Scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments and see how God's Word is alive ... today." St. Ann parishioner Barbara Sullivan, an instructor from CHRISM (A Scripture-based adult faith formation program serving the South Region of the Archdiocese of Boston.), will lead the discussion. Howard also mentions that Sacred Heart Parish continues the tradition of Midnight Mass, "really at midnight!" The collaborative will again host the annual 41st Ecumenical Festival of Lights on Epiphany Sunday, and singers from all participating congregations are invited to join the Sacred Heart choir for the service music.
There is a full page of Advent events in the Matthew 13 collaborative bulletin -- Blessed Sacrament and St. Mary Parishes in Walpole/East Walpole. Highlighting just a few: Sister Nancy Sheridan, SASV will lead an Advent Morning of Prayer: "Praying Our Advent Journey through the Poetry of the Prophet Isaiah" on Dec. 17, following the 9 a.m. Mass at Blessed Sacrament; evenings of Taize Prayer 7 - 7:30 p.m., at St. Mary's on Nov. 29, Dec. 6 and 13; and "Old Fashioned Neighborhood Christmas Caroling" on Dec. 16, meeting at St. Mary's at 7:30 p.m.
St. Michael Parish, North Andover, invites parishioners to, "Come spend some quiet time with the Lord as we prepare a room for Him in our hearts." They offer "evening prayer and eucharistic adoration, along with the option to receive the sacrament of reconciliation" Sunday nights in Advent -- "a break from the hectic holiday season."
"Disciples in Mission," the pastoral plan of the archdiocese, organizes parishes into collaboratives of one, two, or three parishes and introduces a shared leadership model of operation. More importantly, "Disciples in Mission" calls on all parishes to evangelize, to help people get to know Jesus better. We wait for Jesus to come to us at Christmas. He waits for us to come to him each day.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.